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Eyes of a Child

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So I asked for a different set of glasses in my last post, and continued to pray about it after I posted.  My new set of glasses came in the form of my older brother who said something extremely powerful and wise beyond what I have ever given him credit for (who ever gives their older brother credit, right?).  He reminded me that I regularly post photos and updates about all of the wonderful things we are doing in a daily basis and that my last post was not in line with what he saw of my life from outside the fish bowl.

He said,  “I think when it comes to happiness, we never ‘arrive’.  It’s more of a process than a product.”

This comment hit me in a profound way and I realized that I too often look at life like a fish in a fish bowl.  I look around and if the water is clean, I see clean water, but if the water is dirty, I forget that it was ever clean.  When I get overwhelmed, I tend to only see what is right in front of me.  I may see the shark, but not notice the hole that I can wiggle into to get away from the shark, or the escape route that might be right beyond.  We spent so long dreaming about our land, dreaming of our house, and the life that we are now living.  We have always viewed our happiness as contingent on that dream, and because of that, we got caught up in a cycle that found us chasing something that we have always had and just could not see.  I think part of this is our culture.  We are taught to ‘pursue happiness’ to ‘be successful’, like it is something that we have to attain.  This goal becomes our purpose in life, instead of our purpose in life being LIFE.

To further reiterate this point in my life, I was driving in to work this morning and there it was, blaring at me from the True Value sign…….Life is all about the Nuts and Bolts……. The nuts and bolts that hold everything together.  This is where we went wrong.  We got so caught up in the product that we forgot to enjoy the process. Shakespeare must have also thought about this and said: “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing”.

And as C.S. Lewis puts it, “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.”  We are on the final stretch of finishing the house, we have learned so much- about ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, our faith, and our path.  Thanks to my big brother for helping me to look up and see what is really around me, even in my darkest, toughest moments.  I am going to strive to see my life, our property, this PROCESS, through the eyes of my children.  Where I see problems, they see opportunity.  Where I see tasks, they see adventure.  They are happy simply because they are HERE.

Meg

“What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. … In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.”
John Lubbock, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live in

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I Need New Glasses

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I must have had on a different pair of glasses when my eyes saw this view of our property.  I can still see this view in my mind, but my eyes have a different filter now.  I remember the day that we first pulled in to our property with our trucks and trailers.  The grass was long, and we drove all the way to the back to set up camp.   Our minds were full of ideas, dreams, and an unwavering sense of adventure.  We knew what we wanted to do and we knew no bounds in making it happen.  That seems like a lifetime ago.

Today, my eyes see all the work that has to be done.  They see the money that we need to have to finish the work.  They see the pain and disappointment.  They see the decisions that still have to be made.   They see the three kids that get ignored day after day so that we can do what ‘needs’ to be done.  They see the stress and fatigue that threaten to overtake us every morning when we get out of bed.  I am so tired.  I feel lost.  I feel like this dream that we had has somehow separated us from each other, from God.  We worked so hard to get what we thought we wanted and now we do not even know if we want it anymore.

Many times I do not write because I do not want to publish my weakness, my sadness, my doubt.  I am realizing, though, that this is also my reality, and may be the reality of many people trying to do what we are doing.  This is hard.  The hardest thing I have ever done.  It is hard almost every day.  I pray that my husband and I will make it through this with our minds and hearts intact.  I pray that our kids will forget the stress, anxiety, and harshness of their beginnings.  I pray that God’s light will shine down through the darkness and make me feel whole again.  I feel broken by this life.   I pray that I will have the energy to find God when I can barely find my socks in the morning.   I pray that through these difficult times, our family will come together and find strength in our faith.

God led us here.  He paved the way for us to be here, doing this.  He promised me that if we built our house from the ground up, with him at the center, then he would be our foundation and our house would never fall.   I REMEMBER the early days when I knew this with all my heart.  I just cannot feel it right now.  I was reading another blog this evening before I wrote this.  She wrote about her own suffering and hardship.  She reminded me of Paul’s message about grace and hardship.

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It is all that I can do to remain standing right now, in this moment and I pray that I will hold on to the very, very small thread that reminds me that, “when I am weak, then I am strong”.  I do not feel strong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Long, Dark Night

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I have had a difficult time writing for the blog lately.  Admittedly, we have had a long, hard winter and I felt burned out.  What is there to say when you cannot say anything positive?  I did not even realize that I was feeling pretty down until about a month ago.  We were offered a crazy opportunity to go out West to a 30,000 acre ranch  and manage the property.  In some ways, it felt like a dream come true, but the timing was terrible.  We have spent almost three years building this place.  To abandon it now seemed almost criminal.  What this opportunity did, though, was start the process of unthawing our hearts from the long winter and made us really reflect on what it is we are doing here, why we came here, and what we want moving forward.  It has been hard to see any of that because we have gotten so caught up in the details of finishing this place that we got a little bit lost.  When we moved here, it felt very intentional.  It felt like God was leading us here for something really amazing.  We felt driven.  Over  the last three years, we have really felt like we were lost in the wilderness, so to speak.  We felt like God was really silent, which made all of our struggle seem even more challenging.  In the last few weeks, in addition to really finding our center again, we have also been renewing our resolve to live ‘the good life’ as described by Scott and Helen Nearing.  That is how all of this started.  My husband and read their book years ago, and shared it with me when we were still in Alaska.  We became convinced that a better life consisted of a life that involved growing our own food, spending more time outdoors than in, and raising our family around God.  We wanted to utilize technology, but not be slaves to it.

As we begin to unthaw, and the dawn begins to break, we have begun to have hope and purpose again.  I have been reflecting on our journey here, and everywhere I look, I see the progression of our house, and feel such a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Tomorrow we will finish installing the hot water heater and washing machine.  The flooring is on order.  The last two doors are soon to be installed.  We are beginning to wrap up Phase One of Project Homestead.

You have realized by now, I am sure, that I like to reflect.  It helps me to see where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.  I have been reflecting as we prepare to install the washing machine, and thinking about how our lives and comforts have progressed.  I find it interesting that it is now that we are becoming burned out, instead of at any of the other points in the last three years when we have been so much less comfortable.  When we started here, in July of 2014, we were bathing with a solar shower, washing clothes in a bucket, cooking on a camp stove, and doing dishes in a portable camp sink.  We upgraded slowly, VERY slowly.  One year later, we were living in a travel trailer (relative luxury), going to the laundromat, and eating, cooking, and cleaning in the camper.  It took  one-and-a-half years to get indoor plumbing and electricity.  It took two years to get a proper kitchen.  Now, after three years, I am done with the laundromat, done with boiling water on the stove for the kids’ bathwater.

There is almost no evidence left of the way we lived, and what we suffered through to be here now.  The memories linger, however; and make me thankful- every time I take a shower, every time I make a meal, every time I grab something out of the fridge, every time I  sit and watch a movie.  I am thankful for what God has given us, and that he has made us work for every little bit of it in order to give us REAL perspective.  It is so easy to be complacent and just plod along in life – especially now with cellphones, Internet, and technology all around us.  As we come to an end of what has been, for us, a long, cold dark night, I look forward to the coming dawn and all that God has in store for us!

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Happy Autumn

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Typically this time of year finds me feeling nostalgic as I look back on the Summer/Spring and all of the fun that I had.  I begin to feel some mixture of sadness and resignation at the coming of Fall and the long, cold Winter.  This year is proving to be very different.  The days are already feeling colder, and the leaves are beginning to turn.  I find myself looking forward to the Winter and the opportunity to snuggle up on the couch with a good book, or spend more time playing games and doing projects with the kids.  I am absolutely amazed by all that we have accomplished since Spring, but  I am also completely exhausted and overwhelmed.

I look back at what we have done and it seems unreal, but when I look at how far we still have to go, it seems just as overwhelming.  I never imagined it would take this long or be so difficult.  We installed our bathroom vanity at the end of March, and here is all that we have accomplished since….

We started off the Spring with just the utility sink and a working toilet and shower.  Dave spent March getting the bathroom vanity and sink installed, while working part-time and taking care of the kids when I went back to work after the new baby.  We spent the last part of Spring and early Summer doing drywall.  We hung the last of the drywall and Dave taped and mudded while I took care of the kids.  When he was done, I would do the painting on naps and after bedtime.  The tongue and groove went up in July, and the kitchen cabinets and sink were installed in September.  We also prepped a new garden bed and planted a full garden.  We have harvested and stored cucumbers (into pickles), zucchini relish, carrots, green beans, squash, and tomatoes.  I have yet to put away homemade ketchup, tomato sauce, salsa verde, tomato salsa, corn, and herbs.  We also stopped working on the house long enough to split 3 cords of wood (only half of what we need), build an 8×16 shed, and start on a 12×16 shop for Dave.  We still have to finish the shop, add some extra stove pipe to the chimney, install the range hood and hook up the gas lines to the oven/range.  Then we will finally be ready for winter.

Last winter I was facing this moment without running water or electricity.  We have come so far!  We are so exhausted and I will shamelessly admit that I am just ready for the snow.  I am ready to be hunkered down in the house with nothing better to do.  We can celebrate birthdays, enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, and perhaps find a hobby that doesn’t involve our house.  There is still much to do, and it can wait until Spring, when the snow starts to melt and we begin to feel the yearning of finishing things unfinished.  For now, though, I long for the days when we can make homemade tapioca pudding, start homeschooling our Kindergartner, and enjoy a book by the warmth of the woodstove.

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

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The sink

This sink and I have a very love/hate relationship.  This sink was one of our first purchases at Menard’s shortly after we moved here.  We set it up  in the kitchen tent when we were camping in the field two years ago.  I cannot quite remember, but I think the kids may have had a bath or two in that sink.  We had a blue water jug above it and I did so many dishes in that sink, with a bucket underneath for the gray water!  I got used to it after awhile, but that bucket overflowed a few times before I got the hang of it.

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The Kitchen Tent

At the end of our three month camping adventure, the sink went with us into the house.  We set it up with the bucket below and the water above.  For over a year we washed dishes that way.  We still did not have officially running water when I came home with our new baby last December,

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The first winter

I carried that gray water bucket out in the snow, the wind, the rain, when pregnant, postpartum, tired, sick, and overwhelmed.  I stood at that sink so many times washing dishes, feeling bitter, feeling overwhelmed, feeling so, so tired.  Each time we upgraded to a slightly better kitchen, the sink stayed on, alongside the Coleman camp stove.  I began to forget what it was like to live comfortably.

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The Upgrade

This was my ‘new’ kitchen shortly after my daughter was born this past winter.  I was so excited to have a ‘real’ countertop!  THe sink and stove had become a part of my new normal.  It never occured to me that most people would think we were nuts if they really knew how we lived, how we cooked, how we cleaned, how we raised our children.  We had an oil lamp in the evenings, an eventually got a rudimentary electric lamp that we plugged in to extension cords running across the kitchen floor.

This past week it happened. The sink was disconnected and moved out to the lawn.  Every time I walk outside, I take a bit of satisfaction in seeing it there, but it is some weird bittersweet feeling.  I cannot begin to describe the joy that I feel in seeing my new sink in the house.  I somehow feel like I am cheating, though, that life should not be this ‘easy’.

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The imposter

It feels as though an imposter has come into the house.  What is this thing that makes my life so much easier, so much more convenient?  What do I do with all the time that I have saved?  I walk by the sink outside again and again and admit that I feel a little bit of nostalgia for what it represents.   Do not mistake me, I am glad to see it go, but I feel like I am saying goodbye to an old friend.

Building a Garden Shed – Part 1

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As is always the case on our homestead there is never an idle moment. If it is not working on building and finishing the house, doing driveway improvements, or any of the other homestead chores, I …

Source: Building a Garden Shed – Part 1

Blinded by Your Presence

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I had this huge epiphany last night when I should have been sleeping. Our newest child has been putting us through the ringer at night. She is 8 months old and has been waking up every hour or two since the day that she arrived in our arms. Due to the space restrictions while building our home, her portable crib was set up in our room, right next to our bed. We felt that this was necessary due to her frequent waking, so that she did not wake the boys. As a result, we have been severely sleep deprived for months, and everything else has been much more difficult a a result of our general fatigue. Two nights ago, we made the decision to set the portable crib up downstairs and put her down there so that we could attempt to train her to soothe herself back to sleep at night without needing our assistance. The first night she nursed at 10:30pm and did not wake up again until 7:30am. I, on the other hand, woke three or four times to check on her and make sure that she was still breathing! The second night, she woke up at 3:30am and then slept until 9:00am when the rest of us came down for breakfast. It was at this 3:30am moment when I realized that my tiny little daughter has much to teach all of us about presence. In our presence, she could not sleep.

As I was walking back upstairs to bed, I was struck by this hilarious irony. How many times in this process have we been blinded or frozen by presence? Because we are immersed in this madness of building a house, we cannot see the joy in what is all around us. Because we are in the presence of our children 24 hours a day, we have difficulty enjoying them and appreciating them the way we might if we had some absence from them. And just as true as presence, is absence. Because we have felt God’s absence in our lives, we have doubted, also, his presence.

My little Sophie taught me so much in these two nights. She has taught me that just because we want something does not mean that we need it. Just because we feel something, it does not always mean that it is in our best interest. Just because something seems good or helpful, or loving, does not mean that it is what we need. Also on the flip side, just because something is absent, does not mean that it is not present. I am always present for my little girl, but being absent has proven to be better for both of us. Perhaps this is the way with God. Not to say that his absence is better, but to say that if we feel his absence, he is still always present. I pray, as I go to sleep tonight, that my children will always feel my presence even when I am absent. That my children will always feel God. That my husband and I will never doubt God’s presence in our lives even in what feels like absence. That we will be able to look back on this time and see beauty, and growth, and success, even in times that feel ugly, and full of struggle, and pain. I thank God for using this tiny moment to teach me something that feels huge. Presence and absence bringing us to the same truth.

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